Doctoral student Mark Labrecque receives Prostate Cancer Student Award

January 08, 2014

FHS congratulates doctoral student Mark Labrecque, one of only five recipients from across Canada awarded a PCC graduate studentship for outstanding graduate students conducting prostate cancer research. He will receive $40,000 for one year, to do his doctoral research in the Beischlag Lab and contribute to investigating the role of the retinoblastoma protein in HIF-mediated prostate cancer progression.         

From a young age, Labrecque has been captivated by health research and care.  After graduating from UBC in 2007 with a BSc in Cell Biology and Genetics, he was eager to get some lab experience to bolster his resume for medical school applications and was referred to the Beischlag Lab in 2008 as a Research Assistant. Shortly after starting the RA position, he realized he was thoroughly enjoying the projects and enrolled in the FHS MSc program in 2009 and then the PhD program in 2011 for the inaugural cohort.

Labrecque notes that a large obstacle facing lab scientists is trying to get projects funded. However, a research collaboration between FHS’ Tim Beischlag and Michael Cox from the Vancouver Prostate Centre (Dr.Cox is Labrecque’s co-supervisor for this scholarship) has led to headway with the research and an important link to an internationally renowned establishment in the prostate cancer research world.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, about 2 in 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetimes and 1 in 4 will die of the disease. Research has shown that as tumours grow, they can initiate growth of new blood vessels to ensure an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients. In addition, cancer cells can acquire the ability to move from initial tumour sites, like the prostate gland, to other parts of the body (a process termed metastasis). Labrecque’s Prostate Cancer Canada Graduate Studentship award will allow for further examination of how these processes occur and see if treatments could modify these processes to prevent tumours from growing and spreading.  “My longer term career goals are to attend medical school after completion of my PhD and then specialize in Oncology. My dream job would be one where I am still involved in the research side of cancer but balance that with clinical duties.” reflects Labrecque.

Labrecque credits the Faculty of Health Sciences with providing training in the molecular and biological processes of cancer, the practical lab skills required for conducting quality research and combining that with background in the social and political issues surrounding disease and treatment and ways to think about cancer-related problems that arise outside of the laboratory. Labrecque notes, “This will benefit me in my future career aspirations as a health researcher and practitioner.”

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